Friend(s) of CASA

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This is a different post than the usual.  I’m going to get to the pizza right away, then focus on something of greater magnitude and importance.

This week brings me to the Federal Hill neighborhood of Baltimore.  In the heart of everything are all the bars and restaurants on Cross Street.  And within that is the highly popular, Social Pub & Pie.

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I’ve patronized this establishment quite a few times over the past few years, but never actually got to try their pizza.  It’s just how things work out I suppose.  The everything happens for a reason, and how things will work out, also applies here.  More on that after the reviews.

In anticipation of wonderful event coming up this Sunday, October 1st, I thought it was only right to discuss pizzas briefly, and then we’ll focus on something more significant.

I had every intention of making two separate visits, which would mean two pies.  I’m pretty good at math right?  Well, fortunately for me, and a great gesture by Social, they do half and half pies.  Which means I’m going to review for for you today.  And this fact can’t be discounted.  I’m grateful I got to expand my horizons a little bit.

And I broke down both visits by first doing a tomato based pies, and then the second would be the whites.

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First up, the Margherita and the Sausage and Peppers, better known as the Angelo.

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That looks pretty doesn’t it?  I will say that the thin crust was a pleasant surprise.  I was expecting something mega.  But then when I figured out these were wood fired pies, I was looking forward to a lighter and flakier crust.  And that’s exactly what we got.  The Angelo was really good.  With the latter having some fantastic sweet sausage that really makes this pie stand out.  I was in the mood for a little something different and this fits the bill.  The onions and peppers tasted fresh.  The Margherita is exactly what you would expect.  I wouldn’t say it was anything out of the ordinary, but it was solid.

 

I love the presentation and it makes for a great visual.

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But the whites is where things really went to another level.  For visit two, I went with the Spinach and the Onion Crumbled Bleu.   The caramelized onions on both were tremendous.  I have fondness for them in general and this did not disappoint.   The veggies on the spinach were good, but it was the Onion Crumbled Bleu that really stood out.  And I give all credit to the addition of Rosemary.  Yes there’s bleu cheese crumbles and provolone, and while they add something, the rosemary takes this to another place that I didn’t know existed.  If I’ve had rosemary on a pie before I don’t remember.  Either that, or just this just blew everything out of the water.  I can see where these cheeses, the olive oil, and that powerful rosemary taste can backfire.  Not here.  This was incredible.

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If you could only get one pie here, I’d go with the Onion Crumbled Bleu. And that’s without me trying so many fun looking pies on the menu.  Well I can always come back.

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Their website is easy to navigate, so pretty much all the information you need is all found on the main page.

But onto something of greater consequence and importance, my dear friend Rebecca is the Executive Director of Anne Arundel County CASA, Inc.  And her organization will be hosting an event, the Ultimate Tailgate Party at Social Pub & Pie this Sunday (10/1/17) from 9a-12p, where ALL food and liquor sales will be donated to CASA.  How awesome is that?  How often do you hear of all proceeds going anywhere?

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A small percentage is always amazing, but to go above and beyond like this speaks volumes of the management of Social Pub, but also speaks volumes of the people at CASA.

Me and many of our friends have been supporters of CASA, for a number of years, so we know how amazing organizers, the volunteers, the events, and most importantly, the cause is.

I like to think of myself as a friend of CASA.  They even gave me a name tag with my name on it that read, ‘Friend of CASA’, on it, so it must be true.

But regardless, with all the events going on this weekend, this one I would highly suggest attending.  This will be in the private room on the second floor, so you can enjoy a good time with your friends in a more intimate setting, while still getting excited for any football game you’ll either be attending or watching

A gathering of good friends while supporting a more-than-worthwhile cause is what life is all about.  And I’m honored to be a supporter, and honored to be able to write about it here.

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Here are your links to know more about Anne Arundel County, CASA, how to volunteer, how to get involved, or to make donation.

Here are my previous CASA related posts for your reading pleasure (here, there, and, everywhere)

Sunday is going to be fun.  If you’re in the area, bring your friends, your pals, and anyone else that wants to take part in something beautiful.

We’ll see you then.  Peace be with you.

Ideen

 

That’s The Jingle Bell Bar

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That everything happens for a reason cliche is a legitimate thing.   I was all set to do a review of an experience at Red Red Wine Bar back in the spring.   As luck would have it, my phone died as I was getting pictures of our pizzas and vino, while enjoying a casual outdoor setting in Downtown Annapolis.  I took it as a couple things, 1) this is not the way this wine bar was meant to be portrayed, and 2) the universe had grander plans for me.  And is that an understatement if there ever was one.

No matter what goes on in life, one thing I know for sure, the holidays bring out the best in us.  We go through a million emotions all year, and all of a sudden it’s Thanksgiving, and then it’s December.  What the heck happened here?   That time to reflect, to appreciate, and spread love magically appears this time of year.   Wouldn’t be great it you felt that all of the time?

Downtown Annapolis always feels like Christmas to me.  It has the old world, small town, welcoming feel that radiates an aura of holiday spirit 365 days a year.  That might be an exaggeration, but it’s the feeling I get.  And that’s no accident.  Different neighborhoods bring different feelings.  It’s up to us to choose to embrace it or move along.    Well I’m embracing and moving forward.

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So we move along nearly eight months later, and this was meant to be.  However, this time, it wasn’t the Red Red Wine Bar.  They transformed themselves into a winter wonderland and holiday spectacle, happily titled, the Jingle Bell Bar.

This bar is something else.  The set-up with all the lavish decorations screams holiday cheer.  If this didn’t get you in the spirit than I’m not sure what else might.

Actually, it was my dear friend’s event that brought us here tonight.   The Anne Arundel County, Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, for short, has done so much good for the community of Annapolis and nearby.  I’m proud to have volunteered and been associated with some wonderful and unique parties and events.  I’m grateful for that.  And I was grateful for this one.

They had a guest bartender on hand, and part of everyone’s check and tips went to CASA. It’s a win win for everyone.

I  could just sense going in that this was going to be an awesome time.  Sometimes you just know.  When you’re connected with a good community, it’s only going to bring about more of that community.  The folks in attendance were there for the same reason, to celebrate this fantastic organization and the holidays.   I felt so at home.  I think everyone else did too.

After all that, how was the pizza?  To make up for last time, I went with two pies, and was happy to share them with friends, old and new.

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I went with the two that I feel most represented this season, with their flavors, ingredients, and overall presentation.

First up, was the White Chicken on Roasted Garlic Flat Bread.   The look of this was fantastic.   For the simple fact that one of the toppings was garlic puree  is why I went with the garlic flat bread.  It did make me wonder how it would taste with the wheat.  That chicken tasted fresh and organic.   I love brussels sprouts, caramelized onions, and butternut squash.  Tell me another trio that spells out the holidays more than that?  This was a really good pie, but I almost felt like I didn’t get a taste of the squash or onions in every bite.  That could be me trying too hard to find them or some flavors overpowering the other.  Hence why I wonder how the wheat flat bread would turn out.  Nevertheless, my new friends and I finished this wonderful arrangement in mere minutes.  And I would definitely order this pizza again.

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But the quintessential pie of the holiday season might just be the Pear Prosciutto.  You’ve got to be kidding me.   I confirmed with one of the manager’s, Bethany (who was world class by the way), on which pizza to go with.  I’m glad we were on the same page.

Oh my and Christmas was this one of the best things I’ve eaten in sometime.  This is a must with wheat bread.   This is a throwback to my childhood.  And isn’t what Christmas and the holidays does to us sometimes?  The combination of honey, feta, and wheat on a piece of warm and toasty pita bread (usually wheat) alone is something I share with my family, especially my dad, and continue to this way.  So I felt warm inside before even noshing.  And when I finally noshed, everything was confirmed. This is one I’ll be thinking about for a long time.  The pears, prosciutto, and arugula are what you see immediately.  But to me, the heart is the honey, feta, olive oil, and minced garlic.  Again, that’s a family thing.   I’m getting emotional as I expound on this.  I’m getting goose bumps.  I’m not kidding you.

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And combining these pizzas with good people, good wine (click here to read more about the wines), a festive vibe, and a great cause, this is a win-win and then some.

I love this place.  Let me reiterate.  I LOVE this place.  Nestled in the heart of Downtown Annapolis automatically makes a place welcoming.  But there was something special about this night.

Once again, a huge thank you to Bethany for helping me with everything when it came to pizza and wine suggestions.

I’m ecstatic to have been a part of something so special.  I look forward to my next visit to Red Red Wine Bar.   And if you’re in the area I strongly recommend you do the same.

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Here is their story and their contact info.

For my Annapolis Pizza History, click here.

For more on Anne Arundel County CASA and all the good that they do, click here.

And for the last inspiring CASA experience, click here.

This was a holiday party for the books.  I’m so thankful and appreciative to have been a part of this.  All many of us want for the holidays, and out of life, is to feel good.  This event and this bar checks of all the boxes.

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To a safe and happy holiday season,

Ideen

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Love Luna

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The stars aligned for this one, big time.  I’ve been fully engrossed in these blogs for well over a year-and-a-half.  The best experiences are the ones that happen organically and unplanned.  That fact has been reiterated many times over.  But I can’t say it enough.  Life can be magical and majestic if you let it.   This leads me to what I’ll look back on fondly and say it was one of my favorite experiences, Luna Blu of Annapolis, MD.

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Just a day removed from writing this, I found myself in beautiful Downtown Annapolis and got in touch with a dear friend who works in the vicinity.  In previous attempts, timing wasn’t in sync and schedules didn’t always match.  It’s only because the first encounter was meant to be on this day.  You know I have a flair for the dramatics but this story and the build-up has to be told.

We met at her office and after doing the grande tour, we reconvened on where to get food. After a few suggestions on where to eat in her town, she suggested a place where she has had an outstanding working relationship. Yes, the aforesaid Luna. And she mentioned they served pizza.  The theme of thoughtfulness is going to permeate throughout this post.   She recalled my blog and this was the perfect merging of everyone benefiting from this visit.

I rarely mention names here, mainly for the sake of imagination and letting the experience tell the story itself.  But in this case it’s necessary.  My dear friends’ name is Rebecca and she runs Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA for short) of Anne Arundel County.  In the past she mentioned how generous Luna Blu has been in helping with her events.  I’ve lucky to have been a part of several events and seen the multiple bottles of wine and food donated to CASA.  It’s a beautiful thing when people help one another.  It inspires me to want to do more when I see the height of altruism.  I get those warm and fuzzy feelings.  And you can never have enough of those.

On this beautiful Summer day this translated into our meal.  And I mean from top to bottom.  I was introduced briefly to the owner Erin, who was everything Rebecca says she was and more.

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With the gorgeous day, the sunny skies, and the positive energy radiating all over, everything else would be gravy.  Luckily, we didn’t order gravy.  We glanced over the menu and saw they do lunch combos.    I would love to do that another time but instead we split the Spinach Salad with Grilled chicken, and the main event, the Chicken Pesto Pizza.

 

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How many times have I sung the praises of pesto over these many months?  This may have been the best display of this most magnificent of sauces.  And the actual presentation of our za reminded me of large pies I used to get when I was a kid on family outings.  I responded like a kid when this yummy goodness came out of the oven and onto our table.   The salad and the chicken was delicious.  The same authentic pieces of grilled chicken were piled on high on our pie.

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Chicken, mushrooms, pesto, ricotta, and mozzarella is a combination for the ages.  The pesto and ricotta blended together is a first for me.   Maybe I never paid close attention to similar pizza styles I’ve had in the past, but this was art.

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This is the New York Style I’m more accustomed to.  It wasn’t the typical crunchy NY Style pizza I’ve been getting at many pizzerias lately.  This was its own style, its own class, and in a universe all its own.  The golden brown that circled the crust was almost too pretty to eat.  Fact of the matter is the whole pizza itself was just so stunning.  Yes I took a lot of pictures and numerous ones have been posted.

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On one of the hottest days of the year thus far, we each barely had a slice.  That just meant a couple of days of meals.   The way the to go slices were prepped was as pleasant as the original order.  Our waitress (who was wonderful by the way) packaged each slice with wax paper in between each.  Who does that?  That’s the meticulous care you only get from a place that cares.  She mentioned they would taste even better reheated.  And boy she was right.  That’s the true test of a pizza.  Does it taste better after the original heating?  The answer is an infallible one.  Delish!

From the moment leading up to our meet up, the discussion, the walk up, the dining, and the departure was sheer perfection.   I love seeing good people succeed and great things happen to great people.  This is what’s happening here.

In a not so frequent instance, I will be back in a few month with a further elaboration.  The reasons will be obvious come round two.   And I’m going to love it.  I think you will too. Maybe I’ll try the Wine & Pizza Pairing on Thursday.    That wine list looks incredibly tempting.  I can’t wait to go back and try a glass or two, heck maybe a bottle.

Cozy and quaint describes the inside perfectly.  For a quiet place to dine and to detach from the rest of the world, this is your place.  I could go on with the superlatives all day, so I will…And here’s one more for the road! :

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This was the perfect Annapolis day.  I look forward to many more.  I love this town, and love to spend it with awesome people.

For more on CASA and all the good they do, click here.  For more on Luna Blu, click here.

More to come on this most inspiring of places.

Much Love,

Ideen